Despite the bumpy ride that is Ruby Schleicher’s sporting journey to date, a chat with the Collingwood utility quickly reveals a driven, dedicated, sound and selfless athlete.
A commentator’s dream, Schleicher comes from a basketball background.
As Western Australia’s under-18 basketball captain, the 175cm Schleicher once seemed destined for a college basketball career in the US.
Two broken vertebrae in her back soon hindered those plans.
But Schleicher — true to her driven, dedicated nature — decided to pursue a career in the AFLW.
“Growing up, for me, it was always basketball,” Schleicher told aflplayers.com.au.
“I think my Mum wanted to kill me at some stages because I was so focussed on basketball and not really on school.
“Not being able to play how I did before [the injury], that happens. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here now, I would’ve been over in America.
“Everything really does happen for a reason. It’s something that I had to go through; I think I’ve just come out stronger as a person.
“Anything can happen to any of us no matter how strong we are. I’ve been through it, and now I can look forward to footy.”
Now, fresh off 16 disposals, four marks, a goal and eight coaches votes against Geelong last weekend, the numbers are beginning to reward Schleicher’s commitment.
“It’s really good to be recognised,” the 22-year-old said.
“Coming into my fifth year I haven’t been overly happy with how I’ve performed, and last year coming off an injury-prone season, I’m just happy to be out on the park and impacting for my team.”
After Schleicher played all seven games in Collingwood’s 2019 campaign, last year’s injury-ravaged season proved an interruption to steady improvement.
Following a successful recovery from an MCL injury, she then broke her wrist against Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, a match her parents flew in from Western Australia to watch.
But the injuries were used as motivation, and Schleicher’s selflessness also shone through.
“[I thought] ‘I’m going to come back bigger from this, I’m not going to let my mindset drop’,” Schleicher explained.
“It was frustrating, but Ash Brazill did her ACL that game, I was really just focussed on her.
“As disappointed as I was, there was something a lot bigger going on, and that took my mind off myself.
“Having that disappointing season last year, that was a bit of drive for me.”
Schleicher’s other driving factor — perhaps her strongest — comes in the form of her parents, who she says always saw her potential, both on the basketball court and the football field.
“My Dad is my hardest and best coach I’ve had,” she said.
“We played on Saturday, and he’s already re-watched the game against Geelong four times, he goes back and studies it.
“He’s always looking for ways for me to improve, and Mum’s just pushed me to be better, whether it’s my nutrition or my work rate on the field, and she’s that emotional support for me as well.
“There’s no way I’d be doing what I’m doing without them, and their support is what pushes me through a lot of the time.”
Playing for East Fremantle over the WAFL season enabled Schleicher to overcome injury and find form, and complemented by a strict strength and conditioning program, it’s no surprise the high half-back is forging a breakout season.
“I guess I do have that advantage over a lot of Victorian girls where I actually got to play a bit of footy [in the WAFL] last year,” she said.
“But the off-field stuff, working in the gym and getting my nutrition in tow has made a big difference
“It’s crazy what you can do when you’re confident and up and about.”
A former point guard on the basketball court, Schleicher’s injury-free run has also allowed her to translate those skills into the AFLW.
“On-field, one of my strengths is my spatial awareness, hands in tight and clean hands,” she explained.
“I think a lot of that comes from basketball.
“Being an ex-point guard, you’re the one setting up the plays and finding a small dish somewhere, so I do think they translate really well into each other.”
Away from the field, Schleicher is a keen surfer, and often heads towards Torquay to catch a break.
“It’s definitely my release. Sitting there in the water, you forget everything else,” she explained.
“It’s my happy place and where I get to reset and set myself up for the rest of the week.”
Schleicher’s passion for surfing is perhaps equal to her love for indie rock band Spacey Jane, who she joked were robbed of the top gong in Triple J’s most recent Hottest 100.
“I was spewing when [Spacey Jane] didn’t win it, but it’s bloody good for a small Freo band to be getting that high up,” she said.
“The Irish girls (Sarah Rowe and Aishling Sheridan) are living with me, so I was getting them into it and telling them how important it is, the Hottest 100.”
Schleicher’s next assignment comes in the form of the top-placed Brisbane Lions on Sunday afternoon.